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Party With The Porsches At Ohio Store : News

Bar mitzvahs, runway fashion shows, fundraisers, dinners and after-parties are among the events held at Porsche of Beachwood in Beachwood, Ohio.

"We have not done a wedding reception yet, but I imagine it's just a matter of time," says Jason Grimm, the dealership's general manager.

Grimm wanted Porsche of Beachwood to stand out in the affluent suburb on the eastern edge of Cleveland.

About two years ago, he began offering free use of the $12 million dealership to charity organizations, community groups and private residents for events, which are held mostly during nonbusiness hours.

The return he gets -- in good will and potential future customers -- has been priceless, he says.

"We have sold a handful of cars, probably three or four, directly from events," Grimm says. "Now, how many more do you sell from people who say, 'Hey, I was at this event one time' or 'I heard of an event my friend held there?'

"Showroom drivers are what we're looking for" he says. "What better way to do that than create a communal buzz on how beautiful the store is and how welcoming the staff was."

Since starting the program in 2011, Porsche of Beachwood, which sells about 360 new and 600 used cars a year, has hosted about 25 events.

Penske Automotive Group Inc., the second largest dealership group in the United States based on retail sales, opened the store in August 2011 in the city of about 12,000.

"Our community is right next door to where CEO Roger Penske grew up in Shaker Heights," Grimm says. "So when this store opened up, it was a big deal."

The grand opening drew more than 650 people, Grimm says. It was a spectacle, with professional lighting and catering. It generated a lot of after-event buzz and online photos, he says.

At that point, Grimm realized "this place could really be a cool venue."

Grimm started by offering the store to a regional Porsche club for meetings. Within weeks, in early October 2011, a financial planning firm asked Grimm about using the space for a client appreciation evening, he says.

"I think they would have paid if we'd asked, but we said, 'Why pay?'" Grimm says. "I work from 'yes' anyway, so far be it from me to say 'no' to someone who wants to use our state-of-the-art facility to promote themselves personally or professionally. I checked the date and said, 'Let's do it.'"

Word of mouth
Other groups learned, mostly through word of mouth, that the dealership was available for events, Grimm says.

He spent $8,000 to $10,000 to buy 100 chairs, 15 high-top tables, 10 other tables, white and black linens and 400 to 500 wine glasses. The dealership provides use of those free to groups using its space.

Events at the dealership have included small dinners for 50 people and up to a 450-person bar mitzvah. "We'll be hosting a school fundraiser for a local high school" soon, with an estimated 500 people attending, Grimm says.

The cost to the dealership is minimal, he says.

"We have a general understanding with the person sponsoring the event that if there is a major cleanup, they do it," Grimm says. "We have a cleaning company that comes anyhow so that is no extra cost."

Saturday nights are the most popular times for events. But Grimm says he has held some during showroom business hours, with the events taking place in the closed service department.

His staff usually sets up the tables. Often the group holding the event folds the tables and stacks them when the event ends without being asked, Grimm says.

Grimm has one or two porters work the events after hours. The porters are "the eyes and ears" of the dealership to show people where the lights are, how to operate the sound system and "keep an eye on everything." They also lock up after the events, he says.

He pays staff members who work at events their regular compensation rates.

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